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Archive for Friday, November 5, 2004

Briefly

November 5, 2004

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Washington, D.C.

Bush family adds a puppy to the fold

Although President Bush has been tight-lipped about who will serve in his second-term Cabinet, the administration dropped the name Thursday of one addition to the White House family: Miss Beazley.

The 1-week-old Scottish terrier is a birthday gift from the president to his wife, Laura, who turned 58 on Thursday, said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

The black puppy is expected to arrive at the White House before Christmas and will join presidential pets Barney, another Scottish terrier, and India, a black cat.

Miss Beazley's father is Barney's half-brother. She was named after Uncle Beazley, a dinosaur in a children's book, "The Enormous Egg," by Oliver Butterworth.

North Carolina

Machine error causes 4,500 votes to be lost

More than 4,500 votes have been lost in one North Carolina county because officials believed a computer that stored ballots electronically could hold more data than it did. Scattered other problems may change results in races across the state.

Local officials said UniLect Corp., the maker of the county's electronic voting system, told them that each unit could handle 10,500 votes, but the limit was actually 3,005 votes.

Expecting the greater capacity, the county used only one unit during early voting. "If we had known, we would have had the units to handle the votes," said Sue Verdon, secretary of the Carteret County election board.

Officials said 3,005 early votes were stored, but 4,530 were lost.

Washington, D.C.

State Department sets up Islamic prayer room

In a gesture to Muslims, the State Department on Thursday set up a prayer room for 150 guests invited to dinner by Secretary of State Colin Powell to end their Ramadan fast.

Rugs were placed in the well-furnished room off to the side of the Ben Franklin dining room so the Muslims could observe the call to prayer that traditionally precedes the end of fasting at nightfall.

Tokyo

Strong aftershocks rattle northern Japan

Two strong aftershocks shook northern Japan on Thursday, weeks after a powerful earthquake killed 39 people and injured thousands. The tremors sent residents dashing under tables and caused at least one injury.

Late Thursday, a magnitude 5.7 earthquake jolted the country's northernmost main island of Hokkaido, but there were no immediate reports of injuries. The quake, which struck at 11:03 p.m. (8:03 a.m. CST), was centered 37 miles underground, near the island of Kunashiri, about 590 miles north of Tokyo, the Meteorological Agency said.

Above, students take shelter under their desks Thursday at an elementary school in Tokamachi, northern Japan, following a strong earthquake.

Netherlands

Note on director's body threatens politician

A letter the suspected Muslim killer of a Dutch filmmaker pinned to his body held death threats from an unknown terrorist "movement" against a politician, the screenwriter of a movie criticizing Islam, the justice minister said Thursday. Authorities were investigating possible links between the case and foreign terror groups.

Dutch authorities have arrested nine suspects, all believed to be Islamic radicals, in connection with Tuesday's shooting and stabbing of Theo van Gogh.

Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner said Thursday the note, stuck to the body with a knife, contained a "direct warning" to the screenwriter, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born member of parliament who has outraged fellow Muslims by criticizing Islamic customs.

Brazil

Latin American leaders discuss Haiti, Bush

Latin American leaders kicked off a two-day summit Thursday with talks on a larger peacekeeping force for Haiti and the effect on the region from President Bush's re-election.

While Latin America has contributed the bulk of troops to the U.N. force in Haiti, it still stands at close to half the 8,000 personnel recommended by the United Nations after President Jean Bertrand Aristide fled the conflict-ravaged island in February.

Rio Group leaders plan to discuss ways to increase troop strength in Haiti.

London

18 arrested in alleged human trafficking ring

Police on Thursday arrested 18 alleged members of a gang suspected of smuggling hundreds of people from Turkey to Britain, authorities said.

The arrests in southern London and Surrey were part of a yearlong investigation coordinated with authorities in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, where more suspects were being arrested, police said.

All 18 are suspected of conspiring to facilitate trafficking of illegal immigrants and money laundering. The alleged ringleader, who was among those arrested, is believed to own 10 fast-food restaurants employing illegal Turkish immigrants in the London area, police said.

United Nations

U.N. envoy says Darfur descending into anarchy

Warning that Darfur is nearing anarchy, the top U.N. envoy to Sudan urged the Security Council on Thursday to quickly deploy African troops to deter violence and speed peace talks to prevent warlords from taking control of the region.

Jan Pronk repeatedly stressed the need to move swiftly, saying the 20-month conflict in Darfur is changing, with the government not in control of its own forces and a crisis within rebel movements.

"On the ground, those who go for a military option don't listen any more to political leaders," he told reporters later, citing an increase in military activity throughout the region that is linked to instability elsewhere in Sudan.

Denmark

Firefighters contain fire at fireworks factory

Hundreds of firefighters contained a huge blaze at a fireworks factory Thursday, a day after it broke out, setting off at least one explosion as powerful as an earthquake. One firefighter was killed and at least 20 homes were destroyed.

As many as 350 buildings, including private homes and small businesses, may have been damaged by the fire at the N.P. Johnsens fireworks factory in Kolding in western Denmark.

The blaze was thought to have started Wednesday when two containers of fireworks were being loaded onto a truck, police said. It quickly spread to a nearby building and led to a chain reaction of explosions.

Houston

Girlfriend charged with cutting off man's penis

A woman accused of cutting off her boyfriend's penis with a kitchen knife while he was sleeping was charged with aggravated assault after surrendering to sheriff's deputies.

Delmy Margoth Ruiz was arrested by Harris County deputies in the attack on the 34-year-old man, who was listed in good condition at Ben Taub General Hospital.

Ruiz, 49, indicated to law officers that her boyfriend had been unfaithful and abusive. However, a criminal complaint alleges that she told him he was cut "so you can't have any more women."

The severed penis has not been found since the Oct. 28 attack at the woman's home.

She was expected to make her first court appearance Wednesday.

California

No cameras will film Peterson verdict

The judge in Scott Peterson's murder trial ruled Thursday against allowing video or still cameras in the courtroom for the verdict, citing concern for the families of both the defendant and his slain wife.

Also Thursday, Judge Alfred A. Delucchi ruled that transcripts from the many private meetings with attorneys held in the judge's chambers throughout the trial will remain sealed.

"The defendant's right to a fair trial trumps the public's need to know," Delucchi said in making his rulings.

Meanwhile, jurors deliberated Peterson's fate for a second day before breaking up around 4 p.m.

New Jersey

Casino workers return to jobs after strike

Thousands of Atlantic City cocktail waitresses, housekeepers, bellhops and other workers returned to their jobs Thursday, ending a monthlong strike that hit them in the pocketbook and cost this gambling town visitors.

The workers went on strike over issues including health insurance, raises and contract length. The strike forced white-collar workers to clean hotel rooms and serve drinks.

New Jersey

Fighter jet fires on school near firing range

A National Guard F-16 fighter jet on a nighttime training mission strafed an elementary school with 25 rounds of ammunition, authorities said Thursday. No one was injured.

The military is investigating the incident that damaged Little Egg Harbor Intermediate School in southern New Jersey shortly after 11 p.m. Wednesday. The school is a few miles from a military firing range.

Police were called when a custodian who was the only person in the school heard what sounded like someone running across the roof.

The pilot of the single-seat jet was supposed to fire at a ground target on the firing range 3 1/2 miles from the school, said Col. Brian Webster, commander of the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard. He did not know what led to the school being targeted.

Massachusetts

Man runs over daughter hiding in leaf pile

A 10-year-old girl was killed when her father parked his truck in a pile of leaves in which she and a friend were hiding, the family said. The other girl was seriously injured.

Family members said 36-year-old construction worker James Gravel did not know he had run over the girls until he got out and heard daughter Natalie calling him.

"She said, 'Daddy, I can't breathe,'" said Gravel's sister, Jennifer Gravel.

Natalie died at a hospital of head and chest injuries. Eight-year-old Meredith Reid was in critical condition Thursday.

Police said no charges were planned.

Gravel's two other children, ages 11 and 7, were in the truck at the time.

Michigan

Woman, 3 children die as car plunges into lake

A woman apparently took a wrong turn and drove into a lake, drowning herself and three young girls.

Karen Lynn Gilhooly, 46, was taking her daughter and two classmates to a dance concert Wednesday evening when the car plunged into Long Lake.

Gilhooly may have taken a wrong turn onto a road that ends at a boat launch. A sign warns drivers that the road ends, but it was dark and a light rain was falling, authorities said.

The children killed were Sierra Fetterolf, 11, Anna Lynn Maas, 10, and Rowan Sanford, Gilhooly's 10-year-old daughter. Anna was pulled out alive by a dive team but died Thursday at a hospital in Grand Rapids, about 130 miles south of Long Lake Township.

Texas

College student's killer executed by injection

A former oilfield worker was executed Thursday for the fatal beating and slashing of a college student who was abducted while home on spring break.

Robert Brice Morrow, 47, was condemned for the 1996 slaying of Lisa Allison, who was taken from a car wash near her home in Liberty, Texas, east of Houston. Her body was found the next day in a river.

In a final statement, Morrow addressed the parents of his victim by name and told them, "I would like to tell you that I am responsible, and I am sorry for what I did and the pain I caused."

He expressed love to his friends and said he had been blessed that they stood by him.

Washington, D.C.

U.S. unsure whether election terrorist plot was disrupted

More than 700 people were arrested on immigration violations and thousands more subjected to FBI interviews in an intense government effort to avert a terrorist attack aimed at disrupting the election.

As with past unrealized al-Qaida threats, law enforcement officials said Thursday they didn't know for sure whether any of those arrests or interviews foiled an attack.

"It's very hard to prove a negative," Michael Garcia, chief of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in an interview Thursday. "We did cases and operations for people we thought posed national security concerns. We didn't arrest anyone who had a bomb."

Atlanta

Obesity epidemic burdening airplanes, raising fuel costs

Heavy suitcases aren't the only things weighing down airplanes and requiring them to burn more fuel, pushing up the cost of flights. A new government study reveals that airlines increasingly have to worry more about the weight of their passengers.

America's growing waistlines are hurting the bottom lines of airline companies as the extra pounds on passengers are causing a drag on planes. Heavier fliers have created heftier fuel costs, according to the government study.

Through the 1990s, the average weight of Americans increased by 10 pounds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The extra weight caused airlines to spend $275 million to burn 350 million more gallons of fuel in 2000 just to carry the additional weight of Americans, the federal agency estimated in a recent issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Afghanistan

Karzai pledges crackdown on warlords, drugs as president

Hamid Karzai pledged Thursday to use his five-year term as Afghanistan's first elected president to crack down on warlords and the re-emerging country's booming drug economy.

Accepting his victory in the historic Oct. 9 ballot, he also offered an olive branch to the Taliban, even as an offshoot of the former ruling militia threatened to kill three kidnapped U.N. workers who helped organize the vote.

"The Afghan people have placed their trust in us, for which we are very grateful," Karzai said.

Ivory Coast

Warplanes bomb town held by rebels, breaking cease-fire

Ivory Coast warplanes bombed the largest city of the rebel-held north in wave after wave of attacks Thursday, breaking a more than year-old cease-fire in the civil war that split West Africa's one-time economic powerhouse.

The government's Russian-made Sukhoi jets attacked at dawn and swept back in for at least three more raids by nightfall, targeting rebel military and civilian headquarters and television in surprise attacks that left civilians cowering in their homes.

There was no official word on casualties but rebels said 25 civilians were injured. The relief group Medecins sans Frontieres, said the raids injured 39 people, 14 of them civilians. The organization, also known as Doctors Without Borders, said it believed there also had been deaths, but had no details.

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